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US Department of Justice sues publishers and Apple over e-book price

Apple and book publishers Macmillan and Penguin are being sued by the US Department of Justice for colluding over the prices of e-books.

The DoJ accuses the three companies of “conspiring to end e-book retailers’ freedom to compete on price”.

Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster were also originally included in the lawsuit but have already settled.

“As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the BBC.

Papers filed in New York’s Southern District court described the move to an agency model as a “conspiracy”, with allowed publishers rather than sellers to set book prices.

“To effectuate their conspiracy, the publisher defendants teamed up with defendant Apple, which shared the same goal of restraining retail price competition in the sale of e-books,” the filed documents said.

“Apple facilitated the publisher defendants’ collective effort to end retail price competition by coordinating their transition to an agency model across all retailers.”

Publisher Hachette said that it had “reluctantly” settled the case, while maintaining it was “confident” it had not broken any anti-trust laws.

However, Macmillan CEO John Sargent, said the terms demanded by the DOJ were “too onerous” to settle and would lead to Amazon having “the monopoly position it had been building before our switch to the agency model”. 

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